Belfast Telegraph

How my dream barbecue went up in smoke ... again

By Frances Burscough

Hooray for global warming! What a week it’s been. For once the school holidays have coincided brilliantly with a spell of good weather when the temperatures sky-rocketed to such an extent that I finally switched off my central heating, packed away the winter woollies in the roof space and slapped on the fake tan two months ahead of schedule.

Of course, it ended up as streaky as Denny’s finest and looked about as natural as Katie Price’s, but at least I can now venture out without blinding everyone with my LED-bright, fluorescent white legs.

Living by the seaside, like we do, means that in heatwaves like these, our house automatically becomes a general meeting place and social nerve-centre for the youths of Bangor and beyond as well as a stop-off place for assorted fishing trips, skinny-dipping, canoeing and other holiday shenanigans.

There are no restrictions because the owner (me) is a complete push-over. Free entry 24/7, no holds barred, no age restrictions, dry towels, food and drink provided upon request and help yourself to anything in the fridge while you’re at it. (Mum won’t mind)

And so in the midst of this unseasonably warm spell, I decided to treat the kids and their friends to their first barbecue of the season to mark the beginning of the Easter break. I’m using the term “treat” in a loose sense here, you understand. Although I pride myself on being a good cook, I’m pretty hopeless as far dining al fresco is concerned.

But I blame it on the tools.

For a start, in the past I’ve usually opted for the disposable barbies you get for £1.99 at your local garage. These have proved unsatisfactory on so many occasions that last summer I finally vowed never again, but not until after I’d burnt a perfect rectangular black mark into our wooden garden table while simultaneously burning sausages to such a deep shade of charcoal that you could have probably written with them.

Another problem in the past has been the dubious quality of the food, I must also admit. Those bumper value BBQ packs you find in any old corner shop freezer at this time of year — you know the ones, with eight burgers made largely from ground-up bits of bone; eight sausages that render half their body weight in saturated fat dripping and eight spare ribs that were probably deemed spare because there was no actual meat on them, just fat and gristle — they’re always so handy and make the whole cooking process such a doddle. Virtually inedible, but a doddle nevertheless.

Still, this year, now that my kids have grown up and developed a more sophisticated and discerning palette, I decided I would try to attempt a gourmet barbecue from scratch.

Charcoal briquettes, lighter fluid, hickory wood chippings, marinades that Nigella would approve of, home-made burgers from lean steak mince ... oh yes it was going to be smokin’.

Who says that barbecues are the sole preserve of the mensfolk? I was determined to disprove the myth spread by male ‘hunter/gatherers’ since the dawn of time, that women can’t do barbies and should leave it to the Alpha males.

So I got it lit and let it smoulder for a bit then added the woodchips and the food and was just starting to relax and take it all in my stride when an untimely gust of wind blew up from nowhere and proceeded to waft the thick hickory smoke directly into my living room ... Whereupon the smoke alarm went off.

Well, wouldn’t you just know it .... Then we couldn’t find the step ladders and so spent 10 minutes trying to prod the off button with a broom handle. After 15 minutes averting the problem I went back out to check on the food.

My son Luke followed me out too.

“Er, mum, you’re supposed to put the charcoal pieces under the grill, not on the top,” he suggested helpfully.

“Those aren’t charcoal pieces” I replied, apologetically. “They’re the burgers ...”

Belfast Telegraph


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